Hawkes not guilty of gross indecency, assault
Significant inconsistencies in witnesses testimony
KENTVILLE, N.S. — Prominent Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes has been found not guilty of gross indecency and indecent assault in a Nova Scotia case that involved allegations stemming from events in the 1970s.
Provincial court Judge Alan Tufts handed down the verdict Tuesday in Kentville, N.S., saying he found significant inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses.
Hawkes, a high-profile rights activist who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral, was at the time a teacher in his mid-20s in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.
A man told the court he was 16 years old when Hawkes led him down a hallway naked during a drunken get-together at Hawkes’ trailer, and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom.
Two other men testified they attended the get-together as teenagers, and one said he witnessed Hawkes performing oral sex on the complainant.
On Tuesday, the judge said it’s not clear what happened in the bedroom that night.
“It’s easy to speculate, but that’s not something that’s permitted here,” Tufts said.
The judge said the complainant’s testimony was vivid and compelling, but “there are significant inconsistencies in the testimonies of the various witnesses, particularly the testimony of the complainant.”
The complainant held his head down as the decision was read.
Supporters of Hawkes clapped and smiled when he was declared not guilty.
Hawkes had categorically denied the allegations.
Outside the courtroom, Hawkes thanked his supporters, family and the judge for his decision.
“I’m so glad this is over so that I return home and serve and my church and my community as best I can,” he said, reading from a small piece of paper.
Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby said in his closing argument in November that the entire case will be remembered as weird, amid “an abundance of evidence” that the testimony of the witnesses was unreliable.
Ruby said the Crown had “many problems” proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, noting the alleged offences happened more than 40 years ago and that some witnesses testified they were drunk at the time.
The Toronto-based lawyer said the complainant initially told police he was coerced into going to the trailer, but on the witness stand he admitted he had no memory of that happening.
Crown lawyer Bob Morrison called that level of detail “extrinsic,” saying the complainant recalled the important memories clearly.
The complainant did not speak as he left the courthouse.
Hawkes is a high-profile rights activist who has been senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 38 years. He is known as a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, and in 2007 was appointed to the Order of Canada.
Brent Hawkes heads from provincial court in Kentville, N.S. on Tuesday.